Open Mic Solitaire, 18 min, 1983
In Open Mic Solitaire (Solitaire à Micro Ouvert), a young Black Parisian is murdered by skinheads in Paris. Mad with despair and armed with a pistol, Mathieu (Serge Ubrette), the brother of the deceased, and his girlfriend Karin (Marilyn Canto) hijack a radio station popular with the city’s Franco-Caribbean community. Mathieu takes to the air to deliver a searing monologue on the passivity of the West Indian community in the face of white racism. Soon Mathieu’s treatise has encompassed the whole of Europe’s ransacking of Africa, the failed promises of postcolonialism, and the smokescreen of Black bourgeois respectability. Laou uses the radio address to deliver a stunning portrait of life across the banlieues, but as Mathieu’s audience becomes riveted, he and Karin are growing more and more desperate... – Steve Macfarlane
Revolution Radio: Julius-Amédée Laou’s Solitaire à micro ouvert (1983), an interview between Julius-Amédée Laou and Yasmina Price was released by Screen Slate on the occasion of this premiere screening.
In the 1959 L’An V de la Révolution Algérienne (A Dying Colonialism), Frantz Fanon writes about radio as a revolutionary technology. The use of various forms of communication and media in the context of liberation struggles is ongoing and transformative. It was displayed with renewed emphasis during Israel’s latest assault on Gaza, where the destruction of news offices and the longer history of suppressed journalistic coverage was overcome only by the self-documentation, across social media, of Palestinians living under occupation. A few years after the beginning of the Algerian War of Independence in 1954, Fanon described something similar: the role of the radio as a form of anti-colonial resistance. He wrote about the cultural imperialism of Radio-Alger, a French station which worked as an anchor for domination, part of the colonial power’s overwhelming monopoly of radio stations and virulent censorship of Algerians. The radio functioning as only a device of oppression shifted in 1956 when the nationalist Algerian political party, the Front de libération nationale (National Liberation Front), created their own radio station as a counter-voice. Capable of travelling more easily than print media, and not bound to the barrier of literacy, the radio enabled social transformation and political possibility, spreading anti-colonial militancy across the airwaves. As Fanon wrote, “In making of the radio a primary means of resisting the increasingly overwhelming psychological and military pressures of the occupant, Algerian society made an autonomous decision to embrace the new technique and thus tune itself in on the new signaling systems brought into being by the Revolution.” Set in Paris two decades later, Fanon’s fellow Martinican Julius-Amédée Laou’s 1983 short film Solitaire à micro ouvert (Open Mic Solitaire) also invites a meditation on the function of the radio for formerly and continuously colonized peoples.
You can read the full interview here.
Stills, photographs, and artwork courtesy Le Groupe de recherches et d’essais cinématographiques (GREC), and ©Julius-Amédée Laou. Special thanks to Marie-Anne Campos, Léa Morin, Leika Narcisse and Ntone Edjabe (Chimurenga).